A lively recounting of how a ring of Islamic extremists engineered the most ambitious terrorist attack in America to date- -the 1993 bombing of Manhattan's World Trade Center. New York Newsday columnist Dwyer (Subway Lives, 1991), along with reporters David Kocieniewski, Deidre Murphy, and Peg Tyre, won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the story. Here, the first few chapters offer a dramatic, almost second-by-second account of the actions of principal characters on Feb. 26, 1993, at 12:17 p.m., the moment before a yellow Ryder van parked in the lower-level garage of One World Trade Center exploded; the blast itself; and its immediate aftermath. The blast resulted in six deaths and hundreds of injuries. The description of the detonation, however, is only the gravy of this account--the meat follows with an elaborate rehashing of how, where, and why the bomb was made, and by whom. Dwyer spices up the journalistic legwork with great narrative flair, using reconstructed dialogues to portray the incompetence and stupidity of both bombers and the people who were supposed to stop them (such as the tribulations of two NYPD detectives trying to sort through the remains of the Ryder van). But underlying all the blundering, say the authors, is a serious question: ``Could the Twin Towers bombing have been stopped, or was it the price of a free, open society? Sadly, the evidence now suggests the latter''; he blames both the FBI and the press for failing to pursue earlier the violent anti-American Muslim presence here. The profiles of the major players involved are highly descriptive: Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Muslim leader charged with seditious conspiracy; a vital FBI informant; William Kunstler and others attorneys involved in the trial. The authors neatly relate the plot and plotters to other events, including the 1990 murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the increasing religious turmoil in Egypt, and various 1993 threats to bomb New York City landmarks and transportation routes. A spirited account.